As Phil Lederach, a longtime teacher and educational administrator, prepares to represent Goshen College and the rest of District 5 on the City Council, he said that his main goals revolve around improving the school system and ensuring that Goshen remains on the progressive path it has been on.Lederach, a Democrat, comes by his interest in education and District 5 naturally.
He was, he said, “born and raised in District 5,” which extends south from College Avenue and east across Route 33 and whose stakeholders include Goshen Hospital, Greencroft retirement communities and Goshen College, as well as multiple factories.
Lederach graduated from Goshen College in 1979, with a bachelor’s degree in English education and a relationship with the woman who would become his wife, Lisa.
“I met my wife at the fountain in the middle of the plaza, in front of the library,” he said.
Lederach comes from an education background, having worked in schools both near and far. “I’ve been teaching for more than 20 years,” Lederach said. “I’ve taught in Puerto Rico and Kansas.”
In a recent citywide leadership role, he served as the director of secondary education in Indianapolis. Lederach oversaw Hamilton Southeastern Schools Corporation, which included two of the largest high schools in the state, Fishers High School, with a total enrollment of 3,611, and Hamilton Southeastern High School. This role taught him how to deal with budgets and work for the betterment of those schools.
Lederach spoke a lot about improving the relationship between the local government and schools. “The city can, and needs to, help the schools,” Lederach said. “Communities start and thrive in our schools.”
“District 5 is so diverse,” Lederach said. “80% of it is industrial, but we’ve also got national parks, Greencroft, cemeteries, the hospital, schools and more.”
Like the district, Lederach’s own family is a study in diversity. As he put it, “My family is a microcosm of Goshen.”
Phil and Lisa Lederach have nine children, six of whom are adopted and two of whom are hard of hearing. “I’d like to think that I have some understanding of what other people go through in our community because of my family,” Lederach said. “I know, it’s not nearly the same, but I like to think it helps.”
In the Nov. 7 election, Lederach defeated Colin Yoder, the Republican candidate, who also lived in Goshen his whole life. Yoder is the funeral director and third–generation owner of Yoder-Culp Funeral Home on Main Street, across from Goshen College.
Yoder’s focus during the campaign was on making Goshen a more hospitable place for small businesses, based on his own experiences. “Goshen needs to become an easier place to build in and to work in,” Yoder said. “It took us nearly two years to complete a 12–foot–by–12–foot extension on our building.”
“If we want to be business friendly,” he said, “we need to focus on actually being business friendly.”
Both candidates recognized that Goshen is a diverse, thriving community. They each pledged to strengthen that diversity and give back in their own ways.
“Goshen is a great place, which is one of the reasons why I want to be involved,” Yoder said. “Instead of spending time thinking about how diversity, how differences, divide us, we ought to start realizing that it’s our differences that can bring us together.”
Lederach said, “Goshen is on a great path. The thing we need to do is make sure it doesn’t go backwards. It could change to be less accepting, less diverse. We need to continue to build on and improve what’s been put in place.”
The candidates expressed mutual respect during the campaign.
“Colin is a great person,” Lederach said.
“Phil is a great guy and he’s got lots of good experiences,” Yoder said. “I have a lot of respect for him.”
Lederach said that there is one primary question that will guide his deliberations as a councilman: “Does this fit into our long-term goals of continuing to be a place where people want to come live and work?”